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Robin Hartung
Signature Assignment
American History
"In God We Trust” has been part of our heritage since July of 1955 when Dwight D.
Eisenhower signed the law making it our nation’s official motto as well as ratifying that it
be printed on all American paper currency. However, this was not a new phrase in the
United States, it had been on coins since the Civil War during which time religion was at
its peak.
“In these days when imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and
destroy freedom, we should continually look for ways to strengthen the foundations of
our freedom,” said Charles E. Bennett (A member of the United States House of
Representatives). Adding “In God We Trust” to currency, Bennett believed, would “serve
as a constant reminder” that the nation’s political and economic fortunes were tied to its
spiritual faith. (HistoryHouse, web)
There was a political motivation behind this motto and it certainly wasn’t incorporated
just to please God-fearing Americans. The mid- to late-1950s marked an intensification
in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Endeavoring to claim
moral supremacy and demonize the communist Soviet Union, the U.S. capitailized on the
affiliation of communism with atheism. Placing “In God We Trust” on the U.S. dollar
was a way to establish the United States as a Christian nation and distinguish them from
their enemy.
In response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged
Congress to incorporate the words "under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. Prior to
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February 1954, no endeavor to get the Pledge officially amended succeeded. The final
triumphant push came from a pastor at a Presbyterian church in New York City named
George MacPherson Docherty. On February 7, 1954 he delivered a sermon based on the
Gettysburg Address titled "A New Birth of Freedom." He argued that the Nation's might
lay not in arms but its spirit and higher purpose. He distinguished "there was something
missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive
factor in the American way of life." He cited Lincoln's words "under God" as defining
words that set the United States apart from other nations.
President Eisenhower responded enthusiastically to Docherty in a conversation
following the service. Acting on his suggestion the next day on February 8, 1954 he
introduced a bill to that effect. Congress passed the necessary legislation and Eisenhower
signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. Eisenhower stated "From this day
forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town,
every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the
Almighty.... In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in
America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual
weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war."
(Wade, Web)
"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes
nothing than he who believes what is wrong."
Thomas Jefferson (Notes on Virginia, 1782)
The Declaration of Independence announced to the world the unanimous decision of
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the thirteen American colonies to separate themselves from Great Britain. But its true
revolutionary significance was the declaration of a new cornerstone of political
legitimacy in the dominion of the people. The American’s final appeal was not to any
man-made proclamation or evolving spirit but to rights immanently possessed by all men.
These rights are found in eternal “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” As such, the
Declaration’s meaning surpasses the particulars of time and circumstances.
The Declaration bases America and its government on truths such as human equality
and certain “unalienable rights.” The truths are self-evident, not in the sense of being
immediately discernable to everyone, but rather in presenting the most coherent
conclusion of what enlightened humanity understands by being human.
Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of
deism, or "Nature's God.” Jefferson rejected the superstitions and mysticism of
Christianity and went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism
of Jesus leaving only what he regarded the right moral philosophy of Jesus. (The
Jefferson Bible)
The circumstances of the Declaration’s writing make us recognize its exceptional
claims even more. It had been more then two years into the war against Great Britain
when the Continental Congress appointed a committee to explore the independence of the
colonies from Great Britain. It was unanimously sanctioned on the evening of July 4.
Every Fourth of July, America celebrates not the actual act of independence (proclaimed
on July 2) but rather the public decree of the ethic behind the act.
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REFERENCES
“The Legislation Placing “In God We Trust” on National Currency.” History, Art &
Archives. U.S. House of Representatives. Historyhouse.gov. March,2014.web.
Wade,Lisa. “In God We Trust”: Communism, Atheism, & The U.S. Dollar.” The Society
Pages. May 16, 2012. Web.
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